Spring Fling kicks off recreation department’s seasonal fun

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

WEST ORANGE, NJ — Before delivering eggs to children all over the world, the Easter Bunny hopped his way into West Orange for the township’s annual Spring Fling at West Orange High School’s Lincoln Field on March 24.

Hundreds of residents were there to greet the holiday icon upon his arrival at the event, which has kicked off the recreation department’s spring activities for more than 30 years. Prior to having their pictures taken with the bunny, the children also enjoyed a one-man circus act from Justin Wood as well as the highly anticipated Easter egg hunt.

Judging from the screams of delight and sheer joy on their faces, the boys and girls in attendance certainly had a good time, even if they were not one of the lucky four to find a golden egg and win a 32-ounce chocolate bunny. And according to special events coordinator Candy Myrick, being able to provide such happy memories to the township is exactly why the recreation department continues to hold the Spring Fling every year.

“This brings the community together,” Myrick told the West Orange Chronicle in a March 24 phone interview. “It’s an event where everyone across the community can attend, and it’s something to give back positively to the kids.”

Kasia Jankowiak appreciates the township hosting the occasion. Speaking to the Chronicle prior to the festivities, the West Orange resident said it sometimes can be hard to find activities to take children to in the area. So when she saw the Spring Fling flier her son’s school sent home, Jankowiak said she thought it would be an exciting chance for her child to experience something different.

“It’s awesome,” Jankowiak said. “Most kids now spend all their time at home and they don’t get to go out and socialize. These kinds of events are a good opportunity to go out and hang out with other kids and do something other than play video games or watch TV.”

The Spring Fling was also a chance to try something new for Roseni Padilla and her husband, Luis. Though they have lived in the United States for many years, Padilla said her family has actually never had the traditional American Easter egg hunting experience. So the Padillas decided to bring their young son, Daniel, infant daughter, Ruby, and even extended family members like their niece, Ysmarie, to the event so the whole clan could enjoy it.

Though the egg hunt had not yet begun at the time she spoke to the Chronicle, after seeing Daniel gleefully run around with his friends and hearing Ysmarie excitedly talk about how she hopes the town’s jellybeans will be better than the ones given out at her school, Padilla said she is happy they came.

“This is great,” Padilla said. “I would definitely encourage (other residents) to attend events like this.”

Wally and Angela Zebi needed no encouragement to attend the Spring Fling. The longtime West Orange residents have been taking their daughters, now ages 8 and 9, to the Easter event practically since the girls were born. And they said they love everything about it, from seeing their daughters get so excited over the possibility of finding a golden egg — though they usually go home upset after failing to get one — to simply watching them play with the other children.

But aside from the fun of the festivities, Wally Zebi pointed out that there is a lot that the boys and girls can take away.

“The kids learn how to share with each other, be kind to each other,” Wally Zebi told the Chronicle before the event. “Maybe they’ll give the last egg to the next kid in line rather than take it for themselves. It teaches them values.”

Angela Zebi also pointed out that the township always does a good job of uniting its diverse population through gatherings such as the Spring Fling. And the Zebis should know — they said they have enrolled their daughters in various town sports teams and attend numerous municipal events including the Christmas tree-lighting ceremony and the July 4 celebration. For them, their local engagement is a matter of taking pride in their community.

“We try to support the town,” Wally Zebi said. “They do a great job of supporting the community. We have to try to give back by being there, at least.”

This spring there are plenty of ways for residents to get involved with the community as the Zebi family does. According to Myrick, the recreation department is offering a host of programs for its young athletes in kindergarten through 12th grade starting in April, including golf, soccer, track and lacrosse.

And Myrick urged West Orange parents to sign their children up and find out what else the township has to offer. With the weather turning warmer, she said now is the perfect time to be part of what is going on within the community.

“Everybody’s been closed up for the winter, so it’s a good time to start getting the kids out,” Myrick said. “It’s not as hot as the summertime is, so it really makes being outside a lot nicer.”

For more information about West Orange Recreation Department programs, visit http://westorange.org/index.aspx?nid=87.

Photos by Sean Quinn